Will Android tablets overtake the iPad by 2015?

Will Android tablets overtake the iPad by 2015?

Summary: Android tablet makers, being a disparate bunch of OEMs, aren't in a position to plan and organize a proper campaign against Apple.

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According to the prognosticators over at IDC, worldwide shipments of Android tablets will overtake the iPad by 2015. All the other players will see their sales shipments crushed, and Windows 8-powered ARM tablets don't even figure into IDC's results at all.

Here's the money quote:

As predicted, Android made some strong gains in 4Q11, thanks in large part to the Amazon Kindle Fire's success (the Fire runs a custom version of Google's Android OS). Android grew its market share from 32.3% in 3Q11 to 44.6% in 4Q11. As a result, iOS slipped from 61.6% market share to 54.7%; Blackberry slipped from 1.1% to 0.7%. WebOS, which owned 5% of the worldwide market in 3Q11, dropped to zero in 4Q11. Looking ahead, IDC expects Android to continue to grow its share of the market at the expense of iOS.

Here's a chart of the predictions:

IDC is crediting Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire tablet as being the catalyst for this growth. It raised awareness of the category of devices in consumers' minds despite shipping almost exclusively in the US during the fourth quarter of 2011.

While IDC predicts that Android will take the lead in terms of shipments, revenue is a different matter, with IDC expecting iOS to stay as the revenue market share leader through the end of its 2016 forecast period and beyond.

I have to say that I'm skeptical that Android will do this well against iOS.

First off, I don't see Android tablets doing that well right now. When a market leader like Samsung has to admit that "we're not doing very well in the tablet market" then you know that things aren't going too well. There's only so long that companies are going to be willing to invest time, effort, and money, into this market before giving up and admitting defeat. Think what happened with media players when all the big names tried to outsmart Apple's iPod marketing and sales juggernaut.

Margins are already razor-thin and Amazon's Kindle Fire with its $199 price tag has only made this worse. Amazon can afford to be brutal when it comes to Kindle Fire pricing isn't interested in selling a tablet, instead it's interested in selling content for consumption on that tablet. I just can't see anyone other than Apple and Amazon being able to create a revenue-generating ecosystem around their devices; not even Microsoft. This means having to make all their profits off of the sale of the device and hope that the customer comes back in a year or two to buy more hardware again.

I also feel that IDC is somehow relying on Apple to sit still for next few years and allow Android to catch up. Apple's clearly not going to do this, and the $100 price cut on the iPad 2 shows just how committed the Cupertino giant is to getting people onto the iOS bandwagon.

The old iPad 2, which is still superior to every Android tablet currently n the market, is Apple's new iOS gateway drug. Android tablet makers, being a disparate bunch of OEMs, aren't in a position to plan and organize a proper campaign against Apple, and the only player that could help, Google, doesn't seem all that interested in giving the OEMs a helping hand.

My prediction is that by 2015 Android tablets will have closed some of the gap on the iPad, but that Apple will continue to dominate when it comes to shipments. Android will see growth, but at the expense of revenues, and that the other OS players will continue to be crushed under the weight of the opposition.

Image credit: IDC.

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Topics: Hardware, Amazon, Smartphones, Security, Mobility, Mobile OS, Laptops, iPad, Google, Apple, Android, Tablets

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45 comments
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  • Will Android tablets overtake the iPad by 2015?

    That's funny that IDC thinks tablets will still be around in 2015.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Yeah

      We all know that they will mysteriously stop working on December 31st of 2014...

      And we know that Apple will stop selling something that makes them hundreds of millions every year within that timeframe as well.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • RocksinHead probably thinks the world will end before then

        What is that date? December 21st, 2012? Or the date that Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows 8 tablets? Perhaps that is what Lovey means, since another failure by Microsoft would end his world.
        ssaha
    • So Lovecrock you're saying your not going to buy a Windows 8 tablet?

      Geez, then who is Microsoft going to sell one to?
      GoPower
  • Does it matter?

    These are not the day when "Market Share" was thought to be KING. Android can rule in terms of volume sales in the phone and tablet market as far as I'm concerned as long as Apple keeps raking in the green so it can continue to develop new products I'm good and as a share holder doubly so.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
  • Wait what?

    This comment just killed the entire post:
    The old iPad 2, which is still superior to every Android tablet currently n the market, is Apple???s new iOS gateway drug.

    Are you serious? The Asus Prime has a Quad Core, 12 hour battery life, is thinner and comes with a higher resolution screen with ICS. But yeah you just proved you're not biased.

    You and SJVN fall in the same bandwagon....completely biased commentary.
    DreyerSmit
    • Exactly!

      This clown who calls himself a "technology guru" can't even figure out that the ipad2 is a relic, that's why apple just dropped it's price like a rock. There's so many top of the line android tablets that are better than the ipad2 and the new ipad is basically the same as the ipad2 except that it has better screen resolution. Big deal. In terms of spec, The Asus Prime kills it under every category except screen resolution.

      Android, windows or both will beat apple's sales but when, who knows.
      business owner
  • Earlier than that.

    My money's on 2012 for the year Android tablets surpass iPad sales. As in "it has already happened."
    symbolset
    • Just out of curiosity... What color is the sky in your world?

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
    • What color is the sky in your world?

      Please cite some published sales figures to support your fantasy that "it has already happened."
      matthew_maurice
      • The numbers won't be available yet

        It's a bet, not an assertion. Check back in a couple months when the quarterly figures are in.
        symbolset
      • Based on what?

        symbolset

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • Multiple factors

        James Quinn - Apple is a strong Christmas brand and demand for iPad was brisk in Q4. Despite this Android tablets had already come within a few points of share on units - on an accelerating trend to capture unit share so in raw vectors the trend is for Android to capture majority share in Q1. Between them they capture 99.3 percent of share, so there are no others to consider.

        New iPad launch doesn't occur until the end of Q1, and many iPad buyers will be holding off for that product. The pent-up demand will ensure a brisk iPad launch, but the short number of days between the launch and the end of the quarter makes iPad unlikely to make up the difference in two weeks because shipping that many units in so few days is logistically improbable. Meanwhile it seems a new Android tablet seems to be released almost every day, mostly low-cost units selling to emerging markets and to a limited extent the US CE market for disposable ebook/entertainment devices.

        This is for units, not for dollars gross. On the latter I expect iPad to remain well ahead until 4Q2012 at least.
        symbolset
      • are we talking Shipped or actually Sold to a consumer?

        symbolset
        Also while you are correct people might have been holding off on anticipation of the iPad 3 from what I've been reading it's already sold out so maybe pent up demand has made up for that factor? I've heard that the Kindle did have a great Christmas like the iPad but is also not selling nearly as well nowadays? I guess we shall see.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • Sellouts

        James Quinn - The sold out stock is exactly the logistic problem I referenced. They're not really out of iPads. It's just not physically possible for their world-renowned supply chain to shift as many units as are demanded before the end of the quarter, even though they've taken options on bulk air freight from China. They'll get a grand bump in Q2 as they deplete their built-up launch stock, but ultimately there's a limit to how fast Apple can ramp production of iPads and one day they'll be stock-out. There is no such limit on Android and so excess demand for iPads that can't be had will turn into demand for Android tab models that can.

        Kindle fire is doing great. Lots of folks got them for valentine's day or tax rebate season in the US. Transformer Prime continues to be so thoroughly sold out Asus has to put out a press release to say "no, we didn't stop making it! - We just can't meet demand."

        And both of those are eclipsed by the mass of hundreds of models designed and built in small lots at under $200 shipping from and to China, India, Brazil and the US. It's not a one product, one brand thing. It's a swarm of mosquitos.
        symbolset
      • You're delusional.

        As for reported figures, you're in for a disappointment. The iPad's only serious competition is the Kindle Fire, and they don't release actual numbers. Here's a prediction for you. There's not a non-Kindle tablet out that that will sell as many units in [b]this quarter[/b] as the iPad will sell [b]this weekend![/b].
        matthew_maurice
  • Ah, yes. I can hardly wait...

    ...until there are 74,953 different models of Android tablets with 821 different "flavors" of Android to choose from. I'm sure that choosing and owning an Android tablet will be every bit as exciting as it is with Android phones. :P
    Userama
  • The reason Android tablets will still be around...

    Android tablets beating iOS by 2015? LOL. I doubt it.

    But I also doubt that Android tablet manufacturers are going to just throw in the towel. It's a simple question of survival. You're going to start seeing more and more households whose only computing device is a tablet (or a couple of tablets). After all, not everybody needs to compile Visual C code on their machine. Most people do e-mail, web surfing and gaming on their computers. And all that can be done much more simply on a tablet.

    Ceding the tablet market to Apple pretty much puts the rest of the field our of business. So Samsung and ASUS and Acer will make the Android tablet market work because they have no choice.

    The only possible wrinkle here in Win 8 for ARM. But until I see an actual Win 8 ARM tablet I'm chaliking these machines down as vapor.
    dsf3g
  • Price matters!

    Most of the world can't afford $500+ for a tablet. Anything decent for $200 or less will eventually dominate.

    Head-to-head at $500 per tablet, Apple is the safe play with good resale value so its close to untouchable at the high end.
    wally_333
    • Most of the world can't afford $200 either.

      No tablet, other than the OLPC thing, is aimed at "most of the world."
      matthew_maurice